When I am not in Olympia during the legislative session, I provide short-term foster care for teenage girls. I take in our state’s most challenging youth who would otherwise be placed in a hotel, institution, or a different home each night. These children have difficult behaviors due to the trauma and instability in their lives, and need more attention. Their school is usually the only consistent part of their world, which will become more fragmented with mandatory online education.
While I understand Dr. Anthony Chen’s concern to reduce the spread of COVID-19, I disagree with his blanket approach to require all schools in Pierce County to teach remotely. As we are nearing the seventh month of the Governor’s Declaration of a State Emergency, it has become clear that the end to this crisis is nowhere in sight. Children who have broadband service and supportive parents at home will likely weather this storm. However, our most vulnerable youth who need in-person learning will slip through the cracks further.
Foster youth make up the cohort with the worst graduation rates in our state, even lower than homeless youth and children with developmental disabilities. Less than 3% of foster youth graduate from college, yet nearly to 80% of incarcerated individuals were former foster youth. I understand why the outcomes are so poor for these children as I was in foster care when I was younger. Education was my path to breaking the cycle, and now that I serve in the Legislature, it is my responsibility to give these kids a voice when they are overlooked.